Previously introduced as a limited edition, the blinged-up X-Rider now joins the KB bakkie range as a permanent fixture.

Johannesburg - Usually it’s the top-of-the-range models that hog the limelight, but a year ago Isuzu took a more value-for-money approach by launching a tricked-out X-Rider version of its 2.5-litre KB double cab bakkie in South Africa.

Initially built as a limited run of just over 700 units, the vehicle proved so popular that it’s now joined the range as a permanent model selling for R388 400 - nearly 100 grand less than the cheapest 3-litre KB double cab.

The KB250 X-Rider 4x2 Double Cab (to use the full long-winded name) uses the standard 100kW/320Nm 2.5 turbodiesel engine, but is dolled-up with a bit of style and swagger.

This includes replacing the standard chrome Isuzu badge with a bold red one set against a black grille, while the dark theme continues with the front bumper guard, B pillars, tubular side steps and roll bar all painted black. The package is completed by special diamond-cut 18” alloys - wearing low-profile 255/50 Grabber AT all-terrain tyres - and it all makes quite a striking visual statement.

There’s also a standard-fit tow-bar, giving this bakkie a 2.1-ton braked trailer towing capacity. It’s more of a lifestyle bakkie than for carting building materials, although with its 1020kg payload it can happily do both.

Inside, the X-Rider differs from run-of-the-mill KBs with its full leather upholstery, steering wheel trim and gear-lever boot all with red contrast stitching, X-Rider logos on the front head restraints, and a red X in the same font on the door trims, complemented by piano black trim.

Mechanically the vehicle’s unchanged from the regular KB250 4x2. With its rear wheel drive it won’t tackle turf as effectively as a 4x4, but with its generous 220mm ground clearance and diff lock it’s capable of some reasonably rough stuff.

The 2.5’s power output may not be as beefy as the 3-litre version, but there’s more than enough to occupy the fast lane of the freeway, and to swiftly overtake long trucks. It’s an accessible power delivery without major turbo lag, and when downshifts are needed for some steeper hills, the five-speed manual has a nice and slick shifting action.

On paper the 320Nm seems under endowed compared to rival Toyota’s Hilux 2.4 turbodiesel which makes a meaty 400Nm, but when unladen the Isuzu 2.5 doesn’t seem to have any torque deficiencies. There’s enough power to make you question whether you really need to spend all the extra money on the KB 300 unless you plan to do a lot of towing.

The engine’s fairly refined too, and apart from some agricultural sound at idle it smooths out nicely once you’re cruising. The 9.5 litres per 100km our test-vehicle achieved was pretty good in terms of economy.

For a vehicle with load-bearing rear leaf spring suspension the KB delivers a notably comfortable ride. The waftability improves the more you load in the back, but even with an empty load box this bakkie doesn’t bounce around nearly as much as the notorious one-tonners of old.

The roomy cabin and leather seats create a nice family vibe inside, and you can Bluetooth your music through the audio system. The steering wheel has audio controls and the standard features list includes remote central locking and electric windows, but to keep the price reasonable this KB is not over-endowed with spec. There’s no cruise control for instance, which would have come in handy on the speedtrap-infested freeway we drove between Joburg and KZN.

Also, the infotainment system has a small display instead of one of those giant touchscreens that have become de rigeur in lifestyle bakkies, and there’s just a basic onboard computer which you can scroll through to select either range, fuel consumption or the time.

A quirk with the KB bakkie is that the steering column is only height adjustable, which forced me to sit with my knees almost touching the dash. Reach-adjustment would have made things more comfortable.

The X-Rider comes in a choice of white, red or silver, and includes a five-year or 120 000km warranty and roadside assistance program and a five-year or 90 000km service plan.

VERDICT

For those who don’t have nearly half a million bucks to spend on the 3-litre Isuzu KB double cab, this 2.5 X-Rider makes a compelling alternative at R388 400. It hits a sweet spot as a reasonably powered and specced lifestyle bakkie, and its styling swagger will make it fit in with all the other ‘cool’ double cabs hauling toys to playgrounds.

FACTS

Engine: 2.5-litre, four-cyl turbodiesel
Gearbox: 5-speed manual
Power: 100kW @ 3600rpm
Torque: 320Nm @ 1800-2800rpm
Payload:1020kg
Tow capacity (braked):2100kg
Price: R388 400
Warranty: 5-year/120 000km
Maintenance plan: 5-year/90 000km

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